A broad, yet true, statement to make is that exercise can help you lead a happier, healthier life. Exercise can also prolong your life due to the overwhelming benefits that it can give you and, if done carefully, we are not generally not plagued with intolerable side effects.
It does not matter what type of exercise that you participate in, whether it is cardio, strength training, flexibility or balance training, the flow on effects of happiness remain the same. To reinforce this point a little more:
Regarding increased self-esteem and confidence, it is NOT the type of exercise that you do, it is the connection to the positive emotions and endorphins that you experience afterwards.
While there is overwhelming research and evidence to back up the positive effects of exercise, it is not a magic cure and other interventions may be needed to work alongside it. Things such as a supportive social network, minimal stress, relaxation measures (quality sleep, meditation etc), and in some cases medication, can be very effective in helping you gain the most out of your exercise sessions.
Here are some ways that exercise has been proved to be great for your health and self esteem.
Improvement of memory and cognitive function in older age
The hippocampus naturally shrinks in late adulthood, leading to impaired memory and increased risk for dementia.
Greater amounts of physical activity are associated with improvements in the hippocampus that will reduce the risk for cognitive impairment. Aerobic exercise training increases gray and white matter volume in the prefrontal cortex of older adults and increases the functioning of key nodes in the executive control network, leading to more memory function and increased neurocognitive function (1).
Exercise promotes healthier eating habits
The chances are that you feel happy when you are treating your body better, and your body feels and works better when it is being fueled by healthier food and drink. Often introducing exercise into your life can kickstart you to look at other areas that you can improve upon - a lot of the time one of the easiest areas to change is the food you are putting into your body.
Exercise improves sleep
It can be a vicious cycle. When you are tired, you don't feel like you have the energy to exercise. If sleep is short and rough, it's so hard to motivate yourself to be active. However, research shows that people who exercise regularly, have more energy, and less fatigue which can lead to better sleep. Not surprisingly it has been backed up numerous times in research that getting a good night's sleep contributes to improved mood and a sense of well-being (2) . We have also put together a podcast (to be released soon) on sleep in later adulthood with Dr Rosemary Gibson, a clinical sleep researcher at Massey University. Your can read some notes about our talk with Rosemary HERE>>.
We hope this helps explain some of the reasons why we feel better when we exercise (and perhaps how it is good for us).
If you've got any questions about the information in this post, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scott Falconer (B.Sc. (Health Sciences); Cert. Functional Aging)
Co-Founder AgeFIT Home
At AgeFIT, our certified functional aging specialist designs and demonstrates online video strength, mobility and balance routines for seniors that people can choose to do in their own homes at times that suit them. With 3 levels (basic-moderate-challenging), we have progressions and modifications for most exercises enabling people to adapt the exercises to their individual strengths and weaknesses. Click HERE>> to learn more about our 8 Week Strength & Balance Program for Seniors.
Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory - https://www.pnas.org/content/108/7/3017?sid%3D82ba1542-3753-49b2-a1e0-2b16c0b8686b=
The Amygdala, Sleep Debt, Sleep Deprivation, and the Emotion of Anger: A Possible Connection? - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6122651/
The content of this article is the personal view of the author, and is not intended as medical advice. The author is not a licensed medical professional, and this article is not specific medical advice. We recommend that if you have a pre-existing condition, which may be affected by low impact exercise, we recommend you seek the advice of your doctor or specialist before commencing any of our exercise routines.
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